My 21-year-old daughter and I have had multiple conversations over the years about being careful with what she posts online, first when she was on MySpace years ago and then when she migrated to Facebook more recently.

My angle to her was all about protecting reputation. But I missed the bigger picture: Criminals go where the traffic is. The Seattle Times reports it's so easy for crooks to take info that people post on their Facebook page and use it to con that person's family and friends out of money by masquerading as them online and saying they're in trouble.

The FBI recently logged its 2 millionth complaint about Internet-related crime! Think about that. Meanwhile, the Internet Crime Complaint Center says the number of dollars being stolen through this and other scams is growing potentially into the billions.

In general, here are a few tips to keep you safe while you're enjoying Facebook:

  • Be careful who you friend, what info you make public, what you restrict and what info you have the good sense not to disclose at all. Whatever you post can pop up in so many different ways. It can be used against you in job searches, or you can be fired based on what you post about an employer. I recently read in The Wall Street Journal that jury consultants now dig through Facebook pages to find good potential jurors and to know which potentials should be stricken! All based on people's Facebook profiles and posts!!
  • Facebook will soon be sharing even more of your info with third-party companies. The purpose is to serve ads to you. You've got to be very aware of add-on programs like the free game apps on Facebook. They're often just an excuse to get you to agree to data mining.
  • Never use the same password on Facebook that you use on any other site. Make your Facebook password unique as a way to provide an additional layer of protection.
  • Never broadcast the fact that you'll be traveling out of town. It's an open invitation to theft. Post pix and stories when you return!

If you go back before 1995, before the Internet became a part of people's lives, there was no record to speak of when young people made youthful indiscretions. Now everyone just lets it all hang out. We're making ourselves completely open books with what we post online. Be careful out there!

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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